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#2229616 - 02/11/14 01:01 PM Dynamics in Maple Leaf Rag
the nosy ape Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/10/08
Posts: 710
Loc: Westford, MA
There are, like, four dynamic markings in this piece, so what is the customary way to vary dynamics between the phrases and in the repeats? I play mostly classical music and I really do not know much about ragtime.

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#2229700 - 02/11/14 03:17 PM Re: Dynamics in Maple Leaf Rag [Re: the nosy ape]
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3443
Loc: Western Canada
Originally Posted By: the nosy ape
There are, like, four dynamic markings in this piece, so what is the customary way to vary dynamics between the phrases and in the repeats?

Make sure you have the original that starts out with 4 flats. (It does transpose to 5 flats, and then back to 4).
I would suggest you just learn the structure of the piece. Then once you have the piece basically down, go to some youtube videos and play along with them. Or just listen to how others play it. Every one usually plays it the same. And for sure have a listen to Scott Joplin's version. That version will be right! grin Joplin also played measures 17-24, 49-58, and 65-80 one octave higher on the repeat.

Originally Posted By: the nosy ape
I play mostly classical music and I really do not know much about ragtime.

Well you've picked a great piece to start. This is the most famous of rags. So a great place to start. Have fun. It's a great piece to learn. Everyone loves it!
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#2230203 - 02/12/14 08:35 AM Re: Dynamics in Maple Leaf Rag [Re: Diane...]
the nosy ape Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/10/08
Posts: 710
Loc: Westford, MA
I listened to the Joplin pianola roll recording and did not hear a lot of dynamic variation. I thought that might be due to the limitations of the recording. I listened to a few of the other recordings and did not hear much more dynamics. When I listened to slower rags there seemed to be a lot more. Is it just that the faster rags tend to have less dynamic range?

Also, in the Joplin recording he was swinging the beat, as were a couple of other recordings I heard. Others played it with a straight beat. Is this purely a matter of personal taste, or is one more accepted than the other?

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#2230363 - 02/12/14 01:16 PM Re: Dynamics in Maple Leaf Rag [Re: the nosy ape]
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3443
Loc: Western Canada
Just get your fingers under this piece. You will be able to understand it better once you know it. Take it slow. Don't be careless with the fingering or careless with playing the notes correct every time. Play all the repeats as marked. It has cued notes so I would make sure to play those even though it suggests to apply those only after repeats. Learn it, then we'll talk! grin
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#2238477 - 02/27/14 01:48 PM Re: Dynamics in Maple Leaf Rag [Re: Diane...]
Hrodulf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/02/09
Posts: 831
Loc: New York City
I always felt that since ragtime music as published from that era is usually sparse on dynamic markings that the player should do what is natural regarding interpretation of the volume and other aspects of interpretation. In some Joplin works he assigns specific dynamic markings and these obviously should be followed; but just because there are no markings does not, in my mind, mean there should be no variety in expression.
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#2238562 - 02/27/14 03:41 PM Re: Dynamics in Maple Leaf Rag [Re: the nosy ape]
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1520
In Maple Leaf Rag, the 16th notes are swung, they are not played as even 16ths. Swing 16ths are foreign to the classical repertoire. And the upbeats of the 16ths are slightly accented which is an African America concept totally foreign to the classical repertoire. This is the greatest challenge of the piece to a classical pianist.
What is your experience with it?

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#2238714 - 02/27/14 07:46 PM Re: Dynamics in Maple Leaf Rag [Re: the nosy ape]
Whizbang Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 735
Originally Posted By: the nosy ape
There are, like, four dynamic markings in this piece, so what is the customary way to vary dynamics between the phrases and in the repeats? I play mostly classical music and I really do not know much about ragtime.


My teacher has me do lots of dynamic shading throughout Joplin rags, but he gives me a lot of latitude. What I don't get latitude on is if I play WITHOUT dynamic variation.

Another thing that my teach doesn't like me to do is too much rubato. Ragtime is technically a dance tradition, which relies on relatively strict adherence to rhythms. Personally, I like a rubato effect so I try to tastefully add it. it very much depends on the specific rag in question.

As for whether you swing rags, rintincop and I disagree, and we had a vigorous discussion about it in this thread.

Which is not to say "don't swing rags," but to say, "it's a performance choice that's probably more characteristic of the later ragtime era." The professional performance practices of the early ragtime era are more shrouded in mystery.

EDIT: Oh, same issue with pedal. IMO, the lack of pedal markings means, to me, "Pedal as makes sense," with cases where specific pedal is indicated being a way for the composer to say, "Please specifically use this pedaling here".


Edited by Whizbang (02/27/14 07:48 PM)
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#2238815 - 02/28/14 12:54 AM Re: Dynamics in Maple Leaf Rag [Re: the nosy ape]
rintincop Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/04
Posts: 1520
Wikipedia:

"Ragtime is not a "time" (meter) in the same sense that march time is 2/4 meter and waltz time is 3/4 meter; it is rather a musical genre that uses an effect that can be applied to any meter. The defining characteristic of ragtime music is a specific type of syncopation in which melodic accents occur between metrical beats. This results in a melody that seems to be avoiding some metrical beats of the accompaniment by emphasizing notes that either anticipate or follow the beat ("a rhythmic base of metric affirmation, and a melody of metric denial"[21]). The ultimate (and intended) effect on the listener is actually to accentuate the beat, thereby inducing the listener to move to the music. Scott Joplin, the composer/pianist known as the "King of Ragtime", called the effect "weird and intoxicating." He also used the term "swing" in describing how to play ragtime music: "Play slowly until you catch the swing...".[22] The name swing later came to be applied to an early genre of jazz that developed from ragtime. Converting a non-ragtime piece of music into ragtime by changing the time values of melody notes is known as "ragging" the piece. "

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#2239018 - 02/28/14 12:25 PM Re: Dynamics in Maple Leaf Rag [Re: rintincop]
the nosy ape Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/10/08
Posts: 710
Loc: Westford, MA
Originally Posted By: rintincop
In Maple Leaf Rag, the 16th notes are swung, they are not played as even 16ths. Swing 16ths are foreign to the classical repertoire. And the upbeats of the 16ths are slightly accented which is an African America concept totally foreign to the classical repertoire. This is the greatest challenge of the piece to a classical pianist.
What is your experience with it?

As I said, I have heard some performers swing the beat and others not. I have heard Sue Keller, director of the Scott Joplin Festival, play it and she does not swing it.

As an experiment I tried playing it last night with a swung beat and I did not have any trouble doing it.

By the way, there are a couple of threads in the events forum that have recordings of Sue playing this and other pieces. One is about a gathering at Larry Buck's place welcoming Frank back to New England and the other is the one about the party at Frank's house in Maine.

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#2239031 - 02/28/14 12:41 PM Re: Dynamics in Maple Leaf Rag [Re: Whizbang]
the nosy ape Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/10/08
Posts: 710
Loc: Westford, MA
Originally Posted By: Whizbang
Originally Posted By: the nosy ape
There are, like, four dynamic markings in this piece, so what is the customary way to vary dynamics between the phrases and in the repeats? I play mostly classical music and I really do not know much about ragtime.


My teacher has me do lots of dynamic shading throughout Joplin rags, but he gives me a lot of latitude. What I don't get latitude on is if I play WITHOUT dynamic variation.

Another thing that my teach doesn't like me to do is too much rubato. Ragtime is technically a dance tradition, which relies on relatively strict adherence to rhythms. Personally, I like a rubato effect so I try to tastefully add it. it very much depends on the specific rag in question.

As for whether you swing rags, rintincop and I disagree, and we had a vigorous discussion about it in this thread.

Which is not to say "don't swing rags," but to say, "it's a performance choice that's probably more characteristic of the later ragtime era." The professional performance practices of the early ragtime era are more shrouded in mystery.

EDIT: Oh, same issue with pedal. IMO, the lack of pedal markings means, to me, "Pedal as makes sense," with cases where specific pedal is indicated being a way for the composer to say, "Please specifically use this pedaling here".

The first person I asked was my teacher but she admitted to very little knowledge of ragtime. She does say there should be dynamic variation and suggested a couple of places that she felt could use it. Two things I can think of would be to either have a general crescendo through the first section or to do a statement/echo type thing.

The only variation in tempo that I use is at the beginning of the Trio. I just like holding that first note a little longer, sort of giving emphasis to the change of section.

I do not use any pedal. I do not think my pedaling technique is good enough to use it on this piece without it sounding really muddy.

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#2239046 - 02/28/14 01:29 PM Re: Dynamics in Maple Leaf Rag [Re: the nosy ape]
Whizbang Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 735
Originally Posted By: the nosy ape

The first person I asked was my teacher but she admitted to very little knowledge of ragtime. She does say there should be dynamic variation and suggested a couple of places that she felt could use it. Two things I can think of would be to either have a general crescendo through the first section or to do a statement/echo type thing.

The only variation in tempo that I use is at the beginning of the Trio. I just like holding that first note a little longer, sort of giving emphasis to the change of section.

I do not use any pedal. I do not think my pedaling technique is good enough to use it on this piece without it sounding really muddy.


In terms of the first section, I think the beginning of the arpeggiated section specifically calls out a quiet-to-loud and, when I played this for my teacher a while back, he seemed to really want to highlight that bit. "Mysterious" is the word he used, IIRC. So some building through the section might be great, but you might want to take into account Joplin's explicit dynamics--or maybe do it as written the first time through and then mix it up the second time.

Joplin does have a lot of call-and-responses over 4 measures or so and they're really good for either f then p or p then f depending on what you're after.

Also, I think my teach would approve of your break before the trio. In fact, he has encouraged me to slow that section down a tad relative to the other sections. It's tough. But even by sort of hanging on to that first note, it's like springboarding into the section and I think it sounds like a great choice.

In terms of pedal, I was just looking at some performance tips last night on Perfessor Bill Edwards' site. If you play without pedal in ragtime, the issue is that those bass octaves get damped out really fast while you're jumping. So Edwards describes two pedal styles: holding the pedal during the boom and IIRC chucking without the pedal. Or holding the pedal through the boom and chuck.

No pedal is a totally valid choice as well, but it can yield a staccato feel. Being able to play it both ways opens up the open on repeats of starting pedaled and then ending dry or vice versa.

Enjoy!
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2241150 - 03/04/14 09:03 AM Re: Dynamics in Maple Leaf Rag [Re: the nosy ape]
RonDrotos Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/31/13
Posts: 58
Loc: New York City
I think you should just feel the rhythm and have fun with this great piece of music! Don't worry too much about "should."

Performance practices in the 19th century were extremely varied. Many pianists improvised, and this applied to dynamics too. I bet if someone played Maple Leaf Rag in a noisy bar, they'd play it loud. At home, maybe softer or with mixed dynamics.

Even Mozart wrote relatively few dynamic markings in his pieces. He assumed the performer would have something to say about this, and would play the piece differently on different occasions. Beethoven wrote that it was impossible to notate his music exactly as he wanted it played, since there was so much nuance always happening.

BTW, William Bolcom composed some wonderful rags you might want to check out.
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rondrotos@keyboardimprov.com

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